If you are looking for a few comps for The Intern, begin by making a u-turn at Horrible Bosses. Drive right on by Nine to Five. When you get to The Devil Wears Prada, turn it inside out and find a parallel road, and you’d be in heading in the right direction. Lastly, forget Manhattan, and move the whole film to Brooklyn.
In the Devil Wears Prada, Anne Hathaway played the newbie (Andy Sachs) hired to be the personal assistant to the dictatorial doyenne of fashion Miranda Priestly (played by Meryl Streep). Here, Hathaway plays Jules Ostin, the head of an internet start-up (About the Fit, a firm that sells clothing) that has exceeded beyond all hopes and expectations. Started by Ostin in her kitchen, within 18 months, the firm has now has 220 employees.
As part of an outreach program, About the Fit has agreed to participate in a program that hires seniors as interns. Enter Mr. Robert De Niro as Ben Whittaker, a very fit 70-year-old widower. Ben has been a successful corporate mid-level executive in the phone book industry, has lived and worked in Brooklyn his whole life, and at the moment he’s not in need of a job – rather he’d like to do something fulfilling. As he tells us – he’s tried everything from pottery to painting, from yoga to planting, and he’s even taken courses in cooking as well as to learn to speak Mandarin Chinese.
Now if he can just get past the first hurdle. About the Fit doesn’t want a cover letter and a resume. They want a cover video. Ben will have to call his grandson in San Diego to get an idea of what it means to upload a video. At first glance, you just know he will get the job.
Meanwhile, let’s cut back to Hathaway’s Jules Ostin. She’s not the boss from hell. Rather she’s a can-do, roll-up-your-sleeves and pitch in kind of boss. We watch in awe as she’s even down in the trenches of customer service manning the phones with aplomb, smarts, and most importantly – empathy.
She’s gorgeous, rides a bike in the office to get from department to department, is often late, has a husband, an adorable 3-year-old daughter, a beautiful brownstone home in Park Slope, and is heading up a company that has shown off-the-charts success.
While Ostin does her thing, Ben Whittaker is some how assigned to be her personal assistant. Though Ben says all the right things, has a winning attitude, and fits in almost immediately with the twenty and thirty somethings that populate the office, there’s an adjustment period between he and Ostin.
But, as you can not only see it coming, it all works out. He’s soon more than just the senior intern/personal assistant. He’s the mentor to Ostin’s mentee, he drives her to where she needs to be, he offers sage advice, he’s a majordomo, an aide-de-camp, and almost Ostin’s right hand.
It all works so well. I’m talking about the office, as well as the relationship between Ben Whittaker and Jules Ostin. But this is the movies, so there’s got to be some storm clouds that roll in.
And they do. The first is on the business side. The firm’s success has been so through the roof, that it will be impossible to sustain that kind of continued growth. This internet start-up is not yet a Microsoft, Google, Amazon, or even a Uber. So her board of investors thinks and conveys to Ostin, that she should consider hiring a seasoned business veteran as CEO. To take some of the stuff off her plate and to be able to steer the company through the expected down turn.
The second issue is on the home front. Ostin’s husband Matt, who himself had a successful career, had given that up. Now he’s a stay-at-home Dad. He’s running the household, dealing with their three-year old, and everything else. Their marriage begins to teeter.
There’s your set up. Written and directed by Nancy Meyers, The Intern is well made, beautifully filmed, and easily opens it arms for the viewers to swarm in for hugs. From the clothing, to the smart furnishings, to the straight out of the magazines homes we can’t help but love what we see.
Meyers also deserves kudos for asking the key questions – like can a woman head up a company and give it all the time it needs, and still be a party to a warm and loving marriage. Can retirees come back into the work force and offer value. And finally is there enough substance in this story for a successful movie.
I believe the movie is both worthy of praise, and worth your time. But to achieve that Meyers has to take a few shortcuts. The problems and issues all get solved. We are not always sure of how or why – they just do. Everything’s going to work out. This is not a mission statement, or a hoped for conclusion. Rather this is everything but written in stone.
And that’s my major criticism of the film. The pieces all fit together way too easily. Anything with a sharp edge to it is soon smoothed out. The streets are always sunny, and tree-lined. Parking is never a problem which is a kind of a metaphor for how the film works.
Having said that, I can still recommend this film. Meyers knows what she is doing. She’s written 16 films, produced 11, and directed 6. She’s worked with major bankable stars like Meryl Streep, Jack Nicholson, Diane Keaton, Alec Baldwin, Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet, Joe Black, Keanu Reeves, and Jude Law to name but a few.
So despite the lack of true tension, the fact that almost no one raises their voices, and a feel that this a film that decidedly is preternaturally stress-free, the film is commendable and worth seeing. Three point seven five is my rating